The Filipino’s Choice of Life After Death
Growing up, I never really had the chance to visit a private memorial park. It always sounded so expensive and lavish. My idea of a cemetery has always been the view of the public ones that I get to visit every All Soul’s Day.
Picture this: a crowded place, shoulder-to-shoulder with other visitors, and graves being stepped over because they could be mistaken for a pile of dirt. Niches also serve as makeshift homes for the dwellers in the area. For the unfortunate and neglected dead, passers-by get to see their bones exposed.
This was what I have always conceived as an acceptable and normal state for people after their death. Hey, can you blame me? I did not really have much to compare it to. This was the disappointing truth surrounding the status of public cemeteries here in the Philippines.
Now that I am involved in the memorial park industry, I get to see a big difference between “two worlds”. Because of this, we face a question: Why are Filipinos more inclined to choose public cemeteries despite the poor conditions presented to us?
Cause and Effects
Even prior to the global pandemic, the number of deaths still increased by thousands each year. The United Nations (UN) projection on this shows that its continued growth does not show signs of decline any time soon. The increase in population follows the same trend.
How does this affect the activity of cemeteries? With more people comes more demands for living spaces. Land developers, housing projects, and illegal settlements become rampant. I think we can all agree that they would not be too pleased to see a cemetery beside them.
On top of this, the poverty and lack of homes result in communities living inside these cemeteries. They take shelter and earn a living taking care of niches here. A lot of them do desire to resettle somewhere else, but they could not.
Before we dive into the issues surrounding cemeteries, let me define and differentiate private and public ones.
Public cemeteries operate under the government, community, or a church in the area. The maintenance and upkeeping rely on their funds too. The public use them freely and pay a lower fee.
Private cemeteries and memorial parks offer plots of land and spaces that usually need reservation. Although they started as exclusive areas for families to bury their dead, the definition changed over time. They are now distinguished by their mode of payment and their characteristics.
Current demands opened new methods too. Columbaries and crematoriums are alternatives to the traditional burial process.
Convenience vs. Sustainability
It is common knowledge that most Filipinos live on the poverty line. We live paycheck to paycheck, or on a daily wage. When we face death, we do not usually have prior plans or budgets for it.
So what other options do we have for immediate solutions? Public cemeteries are free aside from the annual fee to be paid. All you need are the documents upon death, and you can apply for a niche.
The usual funeral process takes place depending on the religion and budget of the family. Most opt to have masses before transporting them to their final resting place.
The convenience definitely comes with a price though. Aside from a crowded space, the yearly pilgrimage to cemeteries prove to be concerning through the years.
When a unit is unpaid for approximately five years, the caretakers dig them up to make room for newer bodies. So, what happens to the dead when there are no relatives to update their whereabouts every year? They end up labelled in bone bags and stored until someone claims them.
Public cemeteries are cheaper than the alternatives. Constant maintenance and payments solve the issues that may arise from this.
Now, let us look at the benefits and downsides of private cemeteries and memorial parks. It is a well-known fact that these establishments are more physically safe and organized. They give importance to land development and beautification. Clients enjoy the serenity and organization of their operation.
Memorial parks ensure a security for its patrons. Buying a unit here means that you get to have ownership over it. There is no incident where the remains are exhumed unless the family says so.
However, memorial parks undoubtedly costs a much more than public cemeteries. Not everyone can afford to secure a spot in these places especially when working below minimum wage. The paperwork and process may also be overwhelming for some.
These cemeteries also serve as real estate assets. People purchase them in advance, and sell them later on. This is profitable since slots for these places are limited and in-demand. Therefore, value greatly increases over the years.
Memorial parks do offer instalments and other payment methods that may be financially achievable. When planned well beforehand, they are good investments. However, upon immediate need, this is difficult.
This becomes a problem for majority of the population. Our income is just enough for daily needs (sometimes not even meeting them). There is barely enough left planning for this. For a quick solution for burials, private cemeteries would not be the choice.
What Actually Comes After Death?
In reality, death mainly affects the family and friends of the departed. They suffer the pain of loss, and face the financial costs of it. In times of sorrow, the burden of planning a funeral looms over those left behind.
So, what comes after death? Peace? Relief? The afterlife? All of these are concepts that we may never know. For ages, our culture and religion present these to us as if they are certain. The actual aftermath shows itself to the living who are left behind.
Whether a person chooses a private or a public cemetery, death is unpredictable. Some people prepare for it, but some people could not. Investing in a private lot in memorial grounds is beneficial for long-term purposes. Although, on last minute needs, public cemeteries may be the preferred choice.
It is safe to say that people are more informed regarding these. Insurances provide offers and plans to help prepare for death care.
Life is a beautiful gift. When taken away at an instant, it is hard to prepare ourselves. What better way to honor life than to make sure it is remembered?
One thing I can say for sure is that working at Golden Haven Memorial Park, I finally see the importance of planning. They not only ensure a beautiful resting place, but also ensure your loved ones can feel comforted and secure financially in the future.